I was at one of my usual haunts for a documentary screening one evening. I think it was Khalid Mohammad’s The Last Irani Chai. Was immersed in my thoughts as usual, oblivious to folks around me. He came and plonked himself in the seat next to mine and said an enthusiastic hello. I responded, albeit with lesser enthusiasm. I was a little upset at being disturbed out of my reverie.
His was a familiar face. We had met a few weeks earlier at another such screening. He insisted in handing over his business card to me, hoping I’ll agree to a drink sometime. I tried declining initially, but then figured it was easier to play along. He’d forget about me eventually.
But now that he was sitting next to me, I knew that he clearly hadn’t. He enquired about the missing phone call. I said I hadn’t really intended to call him to begin with. He smiled sheepishly. He initiated some small talk, hoping to break some quick ice. I wasn’t forthcoming, fingering the pages of my book impatiently. He got the hint, after multiple attempts.
I felt intruded upon. I was craving some alone time and he was being a little adamant about wanting a conversation. No, he wasn’t rude. I probably was. But I didn’t think I was obliged to entertain him.
This city tends to do this to you. It makes me possessive of my space, literally and figuratively. I find comfort in dark, sparsely-lit cinema halls where I can be all by myself, even ignoring the beeping cell phone in my bag. I feel reassured in an unoccupied local train, where the chatter of my co-passengers does not threaten to invade my thoughts. I derive solace when I can spend 30 minutes reading a book every night before I sleep.